I think we owe it to ourselves as writers to test as many writing tools as possible until we find the one that works best for us. I’ve been through a long list that includes Word, Google Docs, Storyshop and Scrivener with brief tests of many others. I still use Word and Google Docs for specific purposes, but for my day to day writing, Novlr.org is my workhorse.
And what a perty workhorse she is. Novlr is hands-down the most enjoyable writing environment I’ve ever worked in. Given that I spend hundreds of hours a year simply typing words, this is essential to me. Novlr underwent a recent redesign that has brought its various controls closer (in terms of clicks) while preserving the minimalist interface that attracted me in the first place.
In fact, it’s this minimalism that is Novlr’s strongest feature, in my view. Start typing and the left and write panels melt away, giving a gorgeously plain interface that’s easy on the eyes while not being distracting. It’s just you and the words until you re-open the panels.
Novlr.org is an entirely online word processor, so if you don’t like the idea of working in a browser or have exceptionally dodgy broadband, it’s not going to work for you. I do most of my writing on a Chromebook and love the flexibility of being able to write on just about any computer from any location with access to the internet.
The great advantage of Novlr over, say, Google Docs and Word’s online version is that each Novlr document is split into separate chapters (or, indeed, any form of organisational unit you like) which means that however long your novel gets, it remains very snappy in use. Anyone who’s used Google Docs once the document gets beyond 25,000 words will know how long it can sometimes take to fully load so you can get to the end and start typing. The workaround is to create a separate document in Docs or Word for each chapter, but I’ve tried that and it’s an exercise in frustration – not only when typing your first draft but also in combining them into a single document.
Novlr exports to Word (.docx), OpenDocument (.odt) and .pdf formats. These work fine, though I wish they’d apply a heading 1 style to each chapter heading as that would make it much easier to navigate when imported into Word. You can also set up a regular backup to Google Drive and/or Dropbox, though this is only in PDF format, so it’s only an emergency should all other backup methods fail. My process is, at the end of each day’s writing, to export the manuscript to date to Word format and save it in a folder in Google Drive. That way, should the worst happen, I can’t possibly lose more than a day’s work (that Google Drive folder is separately backed up automatically).
Novlr also incorporates a decent grammar and spell checker that works in your choice of UK or US English. It keeps excellent stats so you can quickly see if you’ve reached your daily word count and you can have as many live projects at a time as you’d like.
It doesn’t allow you to insert footnotes, which meant I couldn’t use Novlr for Ten Minute Author or my Discworld-alike comic fantasy.
Ease of use
Aside from its minimalist interface, Novlr’s other great strength is its ease of use. Like all the best designed software, everything is where you’d expect it to be, only appearing when you’re likely to need it.
Novlr costs $9.99 per month or a little less if you buy a year in advance. You will also get a special deal by using the button above. This makes it more expensive than either Word (as part of a Microsoft 365 subscription) or Google Docs. It has a smaller count of features than either of them, but it has what we, as writers, need and it does it so much better than the generalist tools.
I’ve used Novlr to write well over a million words. Writing is my main job, so I don’t begrudge a few quid a month to make that process just a little easier and more efficient, since that’s paid back many, many times over. I recommend at least giving it a try.
Get 20% off a Novlr annual subscription by using voucher code INDIEAUTHOR